Teens at Minnesota’s largest high school will be able to snooze an extra hour next year, while their elementary-aged peers will have to wake up earlier for classes.
Wayzata is the latest district to approve a flip in start times for high school and most elementary schools after a school board vote Monday night. The board’s unanimous vote followed months of divisive deliberation over which of the district’s children need the most sleep.
Superintendent Chace Anderson has supported the flip in start times since an August memo that presented preliminary start time adjustments. Parents of high schoolers generally have supported the schedule change, while some elementary school parents have expressed concerns about having to rearrange their work schedules and about children waiting for earlier buses.
“Educationally, we are doing what’s really preferable for the kids,” said board chair Linda Cohen before the vote.
The plan — which starts the earliest five elementary schools 15 minutes later than originally proposed — lets teens sleep later, while starting elementary schools at a time that “matches their natural levels of alertness,” according to a report prepared by the district. Wayzata High School will start at 8:20 a.m., and three elementary schools will start 10 minutes later. The other five elementary schools will start at 7:45 a.m., and the middle schools will start at 9:10 a.m.
About 15 parents addressed the board at Monday’s meeting, most of them asking the board to vote against the recommendation, saying that little ones need their sleep too. Some parents supporting later starts for elementary school students brought signs to the meeting, reading “ALL KIDS Need to Sleep” and “A Person is A Person. No Matter How Small.”
The most recent analysis of start times didn’t show that elementary-aged students will benefit or suffer from earlier starts. Danielle Dupuis at the University of Minnesota analyzed the impact of school start times on Wayzata student achievement for the district and found there were small differences on elementary MCA scores, some favoring early starts and some favoring late starts. There were no significant overall differences in the analysis of elementary school start times on middle school MCA scores.
“They’re not listening,” said Ethan Roberts, a parent of two elementary-aged students in the district who opposes earlier start times. “It’s sad. It’s very divisive.”
Wayzata High School, which starts at 7:30 a.m., has one of the earliest start times among its west metro neighbors. Eden Prairie High School starts at 7:50 and Minnetonka High School starts at 8. Edina High School starts at 8:25.
Edina and Minneapolis switched their high schools to later starts years ago. Edina’s earliest elementary schools start just 5 minutes after its high school.
Alexis Hayden, a sophomore at Wayzata High School, said that she sees people falling asleep in the school’s first block, after late nights of homework for AP classes. She spoke to the board before the vote, emphasizing that the new start time would help her balance school and sports.
“I feel like it will really benefit me as a student-athlete,” she said.
Schools across the country are debating earlier elementary start times to let teenagers sleep more. In November, Seattle Public Schools approved earlier elementary start times and pushed back its high school start times, making it one of the largest districts in the country to have teens starting school after 8:30 a.m. St. Paul Public Schools last month voted not to push back its high school start times.
Anderson said that as next steps, the district will move forward in planning implementation of the start time strategy.
Esther Dale moved to the Wayzata district from India when she was a child. Now, she has three children in elementary, middle and high school in the district.
“The sacrifice is worth it for the quality of education,” she said.